• Published 19th May 2013
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Pony Und Panzer! - Diceman



Cutie Mark Crusaders pilot Silly weapons of war.

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Chapter II:Surprises and Secrets

Chapter II:Surprises and Secrets

Scootaloo tossed and turned, her body refusing to go to sleep from all the excitement about hanging out with Princess Luna. Despite her tossing and turning both Sweetie Belle and Apple Bloom had no problems getting to sleep, the activities from their sleepover party easily exhausting them.Unable to find a comfortable sleeping position Scootaloo made her way out the room and down the stairs. As she made it into the foyer landing she looked up at the clock.

"Two in the morning? Great." Scootaloo looked at the clock again, this time it said nine at night. She shook her head and figured the battery in it was dying.She quickly did the math in her head, if she managed to fall asleep in the next hour or so she would still be plenty rested for the meeting with Luna. She slowly opened the front door, doing her best to not wake any of the other members of the Apple family. Thankfully even with the old creaky wooden door all the apple family thankfully slept like bricks. Scootaloo closed the door behind her and made for the hill overlooking the south field.

"Feels good to get some fresh air." Scootaloo looked around as she walked up the hill. Lightning bugs lined some of the trees each of them sending glowing signals in an attempt to get a date, every once in awhile a bat swooping down to catch the slower ones off guard. Scootaloo made it to the top of the hill, plopping down on the same spot she laid in every couple nights. A small grassy indent in the ground with a few stray fuchsia and orange hairs from her coat.

The moon was high in the sky, only slightly off center. Something about it seemed off though, the glow wasn't as bright as usual nor was it as large in the sky. Maybe Luna is stressed out? She thought as she stared into the mesmerizing moonlight. It was always relaxing to come up here, even more so since Luna rid her of her nightmares. It was the least she could do as thanks, the Princess put this magnificent sky up every night and ponies just slept though it all without once fully grasping its beauty.

"Huh?" Scootaloo heard something that wasn't quite normal for the local flora and fauna. It sounded like a low whooshing sound but became louder and higher in pitch as she tried to locate where the sound was coming from. "What is that?" Scootaloo couldn't seem to make out exactly where or what she was hearing. She knew what most flora and fauna around the farm sounded like, but this was entirely new. It was just then she noticed a shadow on the ground. A shadow the was quickly growing in size.

"The moon!" Scootaloo turned her head to the skies to find a large silhouette coming right at her. Scootaloo took off running, her hooves a bit slippery on the damp night grass as she ran away from the quickly gaining creature. Turning her head to see what was chasing her she managed to make out some details. Whatever it was, it had broad powerful wings with feathers, a beak of some kind and large talons on its front legs. The creature came within inches of grabbing her when a large blue puff of smoke collided with the shadowy figure, making it disappear.

Scootaloo shot up out of bed, hitting her head on the bunk above. She quickly looked around for the creature but found she was safe in bed, her friends breathing the only sound in the room. "I wonder what that was?" she whispered to herself as she got out of bed. As she got out of bed she noticed her entire body was soaking wet and felt sticky. He coat was ruffled and uneven, her feathers droopy and her mane a slack sided mess. Her sheets and cover were no better off, they were drenched in sweat and littered with hair from her coat and mane.

"Wow, that dream must have been worse than I thought, everything is soaked." Scootaloo pulled the blankets and sheets off the bed, tossing them down the laundry chute in the hall. Before opening the door to grab a new one she took a good look at herself. "Yeah, I need a bath before I put any new ones on." Scootaloo headed down the hall and turned into the bathroom. She found Apple Blooms older sister adjusting the shower head.

"Oh, I'm sorry I didn't think anyone was up yet." Scootaloo said as she backed out of the bathroom.

"No problem. Whatcha doin up so early?" Apple Jack asked as she stepped out of the shower.

"Funny thing, I was gonna ask you the same thing."

"It's 5:15 am sugar cube. I'm up and helpin cook breakfast every morning at this time, right after I take mah mornin shower anyhow." Apple Jack turned the nozzle to check the temperature of the water before turning it off again.

"Anywho, ya didn't answer mah question."

"Oh, Ummm." Scootaloo tried to think of a lie, but couldn't seem to come up with anything. thinking back, lying to Rainbow Dash didn't help matters when she started having bad dreams. "I ...had a bad dream."

"Please don't think less of me!" Scootaloo said as she closed her eyes and turned away.

Scootaloo felt hooves wrap around her neck. She opened her eyes to see Apple Jack was hugging her. "Why would I think less of ya sugar cube. Everypony has fears, everypony has bad dreams, its all part of the roller coaster we call life darlin."

"E-even you have fears?" Scootaloo said while hugging Applejack back.

"O'course I do. I'm afraid I might get sick and not be able to feed mah family. I'm afraid of Apple Bloom doin somethin silly and gettin herself hurt or worse and I'm afraid of losing mah farm to some swindler takin advantage of granny Smith's age." Applejack broke the hug. "I'm afraid of a whole buncha different things but promise to tell nopony, others look up to me and need for them to at least think I'm fearless. Helps them conquer their own fears and all that phycolooki or whatever it's called."

"I promise." Scootaloo replied as she crossed her heart.

"Good, now get in there and wash that stink off, ya smell like a pig that's been rollin in the mud all day. I'll go start breakfast while your cleaning yourself up."

Apple Jack patted Scootaloo on the head before heading out into the hall and downstairs.

"No wonder everypony in town calls here 'best pony'. " Scootaloo hopped in the shower and turned the knob, at first hot water came out but then quickly changed to cold as Apple jack started using the sink downstairs.

*BBBRRRRR* "Okay maybe not always best pony."

***

*Ding-ga-ling -ga-ling*

"Breakfast is ready. Get yer behinds up, the sun says hello!"

A crowd of ponies funneled down the stairs all of them looking groggy with the obvious exception of the Apple family members and Scootaloo.

"So, we have Apple pancakes, apple toast and by request" Apple Jack looked like she wanted to vomit for a moment. "Orange parfait."

The ponies sat down at the table as Apple Jack began to pass out the food, retching a bit as she passed the orange parfait to Sweetie Belle.

"So, how did you sleep Scootaloo? I woke up a couple times, the night felt like it took forever." Sweetie Bell said as she greedily dug into her orange parfait, much to the disgust of Apple Jack.

"I ummm," Scootaloo tried to avoid the gaze of Apple Jack but she just gave a wink and a small nod that it was okay. "Slept okay for the most part. Took a shower early though. Can never be too clean when meeting with royalty ya know." Scootaloo faked a smile, a smile so cheesy that if her friends weren't busy with ogling their food they would see right though it.

"And how about you Apple Bloom?" Scootaloo asked, trying to deflect attention off of herself.

"it was okay. Had strange dream though."

"What kinda dream, sis?" Applejack asked as she stacked four cinnamon apple pancakes and two eggs on Apple Blooms plate.

"I was standin on a cloud and then suddenly I fell, but a gigantic water slide caught me and I rode it all the way down into a giant pile of ice cream."

Apple Jack put a plate of four pancakes and some eggs in front of Apple Bloom. "I hope that dream didn't ruin yer breakfast."

"Nah, ya can't eat your dreams. Or maybe ya can, I'll have to ask Luna about that."

"I dreamed about...something about sheep and flying though a hurricane made of...oh what was it...." Sweetie Belle Seemed to struggle with remembering her dream."Toaster was it?". Meanwhile Apple Jack loaded granny Smiths, Big Mac's, Scootaloo's and Her own plate. She sat them down one at the time and took her place at the end of the table.

"Sweetie Belle,darlin, you sure that orange thing is enough for ya?"

Sweetie Belle looked over her orange parfait, which was already mostly gone. "I want to ask for some food but rarity says 'one must always be proper when dieting'" Sweetie Belle managed to say in the worst voice impression Scootaloo had ever heard of Rarity.

"Sweetie, what has your sister been puttin into yer head. Yer a growin filly, ya need ta eat!" Apple Jack got out of her chair and fired up the stove, pouring batter into the pan and pulling eggs out of the fridge.

"But-"

"No buts Sweetie Belle, yer gonna eat what I cook and like it." A few minutes of silence fell on the table as Apple Jack cooked up some food and put it on a plate in front of Sweetie Belle.

"Thanks, Apple Jack but I -"

"You let me handle Rarity. Eat. What would the princess think of me if I sent ya her way hungry, worse what would she think of your sister for lettin ya go hungry."

Sweetie Belle eyef her food anxiously, watching all the ponies around the table staring at her. "Okay then!" Sweetie Belle tore into her cinnamon apple pancakes like a a ravenous wolf, gulping down the first cake in seconds.

"Whoa there nelly! I said eat, not inhale." Applejack couldn't help but laugh as Sweetie Belle stopped and smiled, nibbling on the end of the pancake like a lady.

The rest of the breakfast was uneventful, aside from Sweetie Belle asking for seconds.

Applejack stood up from the table. "I'll meet ya outside in fifteen Big Mac, I need a quick shower before I get to work for the day."

"No problem." Big Mac replied.

"So, whatta y'all wanna do until noon?" Apple Bloom said excitedly.

"Not much we can do. It's gonna be a scorcher today, I don't think your sister would appreciate us all getting dirty, sweaty and tired before the meeting with Luna. I know my sister will kill me if I make a bad impression." Sweetie Belle made a noose in the air and fake hung it around her neck, pulling to make a fake gag.

"We could try the arcade but the owner is sick. The place is practically an inferno by noon without his cool air spell."

"We could just round up who we are taking with us, remember she said us AND our friends."

The group sat there at the table for a few minutes, the only noise breaking their concentration was granny Smith getting up to do the dishes.

"Well Featherweight, Peppermint Twist and Lemon Drop are a must." Sweetie Belle said.

"Snips and Snails as well, just so long as they don't embarrass us that is." Scootaloo added.

"I wish Babsy was here, she would love to meet one of the princesses."

"Yeah, but it's a full days ride to Manehattan. Even if we sent her a letter yesterday she wouldn't even get it till today, maybe not until next month knowing our mail carriers." Scootaloo said with some disdain in her voice.

"Derpy?" Apple Bloom and Sweetie asked at the same time.

"Derpy." Scootaloo confirmed.

"We can...always bring Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoo-" Sweetie Belle stopped herself short as the other two CMC members stared at her like she had lost her mind.

"Never mind, bad idea."

"Anywho, we got a few hours to burn. Y'all wanna help fetch them?" Apple Bloom said exuberantly as she got down from the table.

"Better than cooking ourselves in the clubhouse or hanging around here till we run out of board games to play."

"Then Let's-"

"Now wait a darn tootin minute you young-ins." Granny Smith turned around with a serious look on her face. "You shouldn't leave Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon out of this meeting ma-jig."

"But granny, they act like absolute snobs. They bully ponies all the time for either being blank flanks or havin less bits then them." Apple Bloom complained.

"Yeah and they are both always out for themselves and they don't care who they step on to do it." Scootaloo added.

Granny Smith frowned. "That may be true but sometimes you need to put out the friendly hoof first. If they refuse and continue to act like a stubborn nugget then so be it." Granny rinsed off one of the dishes and set it in the adjacent strainer to dry. "My point is that one day you may need their help. Letting them come along to meet Luna with ya might be the thing that finally breaks the ice."

"But granny-"

"I taint tellin ya do do it. I'm just suggestin it. The hoofballs in yer corner to follow up on it." Granny Smith turned around and went back to work on the dishes, leaving the younger fillies to their thoughts.

"Well, lets go get the others in any case. We can talk about those other ponies on the way." Scootaloo didn't feel to impressed with granny Smith at the moment. What was she thinking, asking us to let our sworn enemies tag along with us.

"Yeah, we can talk about that on the way." Apple Bloom hopped out of her chair and motioned her friends to follow her. They went out the kitchen and though the back door. Around halfway through the north field Apple Bloom spoke up. "I love granny to death and all but sometimes her advice isn't exactly sage."

"I thought it wasn't too bad." Sweetie Belle quickly changed her tone after getting twin angry stares from Scootaloo and Apple Bloom. "I mean ummm, the orange parfait, it wasn't too bad." She said, grinning sheepishly.

"I kinda get where she is coming from but the last thing we need it to be made to look like foals in front of Luna."

"I agree Scoots, how about you Sweetie?"

"I guess, but something tells me shes gonna tag along anyhow."

"What do you mean?" Scootaloo and Apple bloom asked in unison.

"Just a hunch." Sweetie Belle replied.

***Later***

"So what yer tellin me is Luna has a surprise for you?" Snails asked in his typical slow speaking manner.

"Yep, I have no idea what it is but it's sure to be good if Luna is involved" Scootaloo said excitedly.

"But you said only friends of Luna could go. I'm not one of Luna's friends, I wish I could be though."

"No, you ninny. She means friends of hers, which means us, I hope." Snips looked at Apple Bloom expectantly.

"Of course yer our friends. Why do you think we are here? ta tease ya?"

"Ummm..., yes?" Snails replied just as other ponies behind Apple Bloom face-hoofed.

"Just, follow us okay?" Apple Bloom smiled, trying to keep her face friendly under all the frustration. So far every other pony in town had heard of their invitation and tried to suddenly be her '"friend". It sort of reminded her of when Twilight got tickets to the Grand Galloping Gala. Everypony in town was mad to get her attention and blessing for a chance to go to what turned out to be a boring dud of a party.

Oh No! I hope Luna isn't throwing a Gala. All those fancy ponies make parties boring as watching paint dry. Apple Bloom thought to herself as she headed back toward the farm, her friends in tow.

"So any guesses on what it could be Featherweight?"

"No idea Twist. Could be anything. She could even be rounding us up for a vampony feast."

Lemon drop's face contorted. "Honestly, that rumor is terrible. She may have been Nightmare Moon once but there is nothing histrionically accurate about her drinking blood."

"Well she did have fangs during Nightmare Night that one year." Sweetie Belle added.

"Yeah but that was to scare a bunch of little fillies, pip told me she spit the fake teeth out. Besides how can the best princess ever possibly enjoy sucking blood. I mean when I had dental work done my mouth tasted like copper for a week." Scootaloo absentmindedly rubber her cheek, remembering a particularly painful impacted incisor extraction.

"Blood tastes like copper? I always thought it tasted like...I dunno roses."

"Snails, why would blood *gulp* taste like roses?" Snipe asked.

"Both are red, therefore they both must taste like roses." Snails answered.

"Impeccable logic there Snails." Peppermint Twist said with a groan.

"Thank you Twist. I always try to keep up with my studies." Snails replied as ponies in the groups rolled their eyes, Snails clearly missing the sarcasm.

The group continued along until they reached the edge of Ponyville, only a few hundred yards till they reached the Apple Family property line when Apple Bloom heard somepony yelling behind them. Apple Bloom turned around, confused about all the ruckus. "Did Snails cut another fart back there or sumthin. I swear you really need to lay off the beans."

The ruckus wasn't in the group but two ponies running up from behind. One of them wearing a tiara and the other wearing over-sized, high rim glasses.

"Please take us with you blank fla- I mean Apple Bloom!" Silver Spoon yelled as she moved as fast as her giant backpack would allow.

"I told you to pack light, Silver Spoon." Diamond Tiara growled as she helped push Silver Spoon up the slope. After a few tense moments they caught up with the rest of the group, Silver Spoon entirely out of breath.

"So what makes you think I'm gonna let you tag along." Apple Bloom said sternly.

"Don't act like that ol' buddy ,ol' pal. We always hang out with each other." Diamond Tiara gave a big smile and fluttered her eyelashes, as if she was genuinely thinking she was fooling anypony but herself. Some of the other ponies in the group, namely Lemon Drop and Featherweight couldn't control their laughter. The only pony that didn't seem to be almost holding their sides laughing was Snails, who seemed all too enamored in a nearby moth.

"I don't know what you think yer accomplishing by fakin to be mah friend Diamond but it taint workin. Come on everypony let's leave this faker and her co-co."

"Cohort, Apple Bloom." Peppermint Twist corrected.

"Yeah that word. Let leave em be, we have a meeting with the princess to attend to." Apple Bloom turned her back when Diamond changed her tone entirely.

"Please, Apple Bloom. You can't just turn your back on me and Silver. I know we are mean to you and all but it's mostly harmless taunting."

"Harmless like when you abandoned me with 'could of been a swamp monster' Fluttershy yesterday?" Apple Bloom said with a grin on her face.

"That was different. That was err....what do you call it, fight or flight instincts kicking in. I didn't mean it in a bad way."

"Yet you neglected to send anypony to see if I was alright."

"I...but." Diamond Tiara bowed her head and clasped her front hooves together. "Please, meeting with Luna is a opportunity of a lifetime. I mean, if she thinks you are cool enough to hang out with maybe me and Silver were wrong about you girls all this time."

Apple Bloom didn't expect this. The proud and haughty rich filly begging her for forgiveness. Although Apple Bloom knew it was most likely faked, something inside her; possibly the thought of what granny Smith said was making her rethink her original plans.

"Ya know what Diamond, Imma leave the decision to take you along to the rest of the group. You wait right there while we de-de"

"Deliberate?" Peppermint Twist chimed in.

"Yeah, that."

The group of ponies walked some distance away and formed a circle, a kind of huddle in the road.

"So, thoughts and concerns y'all. Spill em." Apple Bloom asked promptly.

"Nay" Scootaloo said.

"Maybe?" Sweetie Belle said.

"As your big brother would say. NNNNoooopeee!" Snips said firmly in a terrible Big Mac impersonation.

"I'm for maybe. I mean she's never taunted me before but I seen what she does to other ponies." Featherweight said.

"How about You and Lemon drop." Apple Bloom said as she set eyes on Peppermint Twist.

"I don't much like her and Silver as much as any other pony but, I cast my vote as yes." The other ponies in the group gave Peppermint Twist odd stares. "No, I know. Hear me out though. In a few short years she will be the head of the rich family, being their only current heir. If you deny her this favor she could turn the families entire wealth against you and the ones you love just out of petty revenge. Same thing goes for Silver Spoon, their combined capital could easily bankrupt Sweet Apple Acres."

"But, how? Sweet Apple Acre's products are known world wide. I mean Zap Apple Jam, Cider lines as far as the eyes can see during Cider season and the best apple pies bits can buy." Scootaloo said while rubbing her belly.

"Yet you're always one disaster away from the farm becoming an abandoned wreck. As smart as your grandma and Apple Jack are with making a good product they are entirely out of their league when it comes to marketing said products. The only reason said items are known worldwide is becuase both Stinkin Rich and Filthy Rich bought their products in droves."

"Get to the point already. All this money talk is makin mah head hurt." Apple Bloom complained.

"Point is, when she gets of age and controls all that money she will stop buying your families produce. Worse yet the both of them could advertise your apples as poison."

"But there not poison!" Apple Bloom shouted.

"We all know that but in the world of economics nearly anything goes. Even worse they could slip a few thousand bits to a senator and poof your deed is suddenly under their control. They could shut you down or just extort you."

"Peppermint how do you know all of this, your like what. Eleven?" Sweetie Belle said while scratching her mane.

"I actually paid attention during the economics class?" Peppermint Twist shrugged.

"How about you Lemon Drop?"

"I think peppermint puts up a good point but if you let her go now you could hold that little debt above her head, never using it till the right moment and if you're lucky you never will need to. If the Rich family has a weak spot it's that they loathe owing anypony a debt. My vote is yes."

"So that's what two nays, two maybes or umm, undecideds and two yes. I guess that leaves me the tie breaker." Apple Bloom looked over her shoulder at the false grin of Diamond Tiara and the half exhausted smile from Silver Spoon. Something inside her just wanted to shout no and laugh all the way to the farm but the points Peppermint Twist and Lemon Drop brought up were both very valid. Not only were her friends correct but the words granny Smith said were barking in the back of her mind, poking at her to be the bigger pony in this situation.

"I'm gonna live to regret this..." Apple Bloom walked up to Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon, frowning. "You two can come along, but only if you behave yourselves."

The expression on Diamond Tiara's face was as if she had just won the lottery. "Thank you, thank you, thank you. Trust me, you won't regret bringing me along."

That remains to be seen. Apple Bloom thought to herself as she dodged a incoming hug from Silver Spoon. "Nah, just thanks is enough." Apple Bloom looked over her shoulder, something was telling her that Scootaloo and Sweetie Belle were staring a hole into her. Her intuition proved right, at least partially. Scootaloo looked like she was about to headbutt a bear but Sweetie Belle looked indifferent.

Ignoring the glares from Scootaloo, Apple Bloom walked quickly to the head of the group. "Come on y'all, we need to get to the front gate, I don't think Luna would appreciate us being late." The rest of the short trip was uneventful, although Apple Bloom almost wished Snails or Snips would goof up to draw Scootaloo's venom glare from her back. As the gate came into view Apple Bloom took note of a crowd of ponies at the gate, all of them flashing camera lights and tossing questions at a overwhelmed Apple Jack.

"Ms. Crapple Slack, how do you take the rumors that Princess Luna wants to see your sister so she can suck their blood?"

"Crapple Slack? I that It was Apple Mack?" Another reported Squealed.

"I thought it was Jack Apple."

Apple Jack inhaled deeply. "Shut yer pie holes!" The crowd of reporters quickly went silent. "Mah name is Apple Jack and taint nothing gonna happen to my little sister. I trust Luna completely and so should y'all."

"But rumors have been circulating about a terror that flaps in the night. It surely must be Luna, shes the only frightening pony up at that hour."

Apple Bloom thought it best to try and avoid the crowd when one of the reporters spotted their group.

"There they are! The ponies Luna invited to some kinda secret meeting!" The crowd of reporter ponies charged Apple Bloom and her group. The group scattered and some of them climbed up some nearby apple trees. Unfortunately Apple Bloom was unable to get up a tree in time. She felt her heart skip a beat as the crowd closed in on her.

"Hey, y'all leave mah sister be!" Apple Jack called after them but the crowd ignored her, closing in on Apple Bloom like a pack of wolves hungry for a meal.

Suddenly a big red coat appeared in front of Apple Bloom, stopping the entourage of reporters cold. "When a lady asks you to leave someone alone, you leave them alone!"

Big Mac stomped hard on the ground with his front hooves, making the nearby trees drop multiple apples to the ground. Most of the ponies stopped cold, their eyes filled with fear. Big Mac may be a gentle big brother but few stallions could match his size or physique.

One of the reporters however, seemed to have a death wish and walked up to Big Mac snorting. "Good show but a show none the less. I did my homework before I came here and know for a fact that your personality profile is non- violent. I came here all the way from Canterlot to get a scoop and a scoop I will get. No country bumpkin is going to stop me." The reporter tried to walk around Big Mac only to have his camera knocked in the air right off of his neck.

"Hey?!" The camera flung high into the air and just as it reached eyes level, Big mac gave it a vicious headbutt, shattering it as if it were made of lego bricks.

"Next one to..." Big Mac drew a line in the dirt. "To cross this line get a free nights stay at the infirmary, if ya get my drift. Now If you would all kindly get off my farm before I get angry it would be much appreciated." The crowd of reporter ponies took off toward the exit of the farm as fast as they could. Many of them dropping equipment and just leaving it to avoid Big Mac's wrath.

Apple Bloom didn't know what to make of the situation. It was extremely rare to see Big Mac angry, let alone ready to hurt somepony. "Big brother? You okay?"

"I'll be fine little sis, you all head inside, I'll call ya out when Luna arrives."

Apple Bloom noticed that Big Mac had a small cut on his head, probably from the glass in the camera he just annihilated. "Brother, yer hurt!"

"Oh, it's only a scratch. I'll put some peroxide on it later. Y'all get inside in the meantime."

Apple Bloom rubbed up against Big Mac affectionately. "Thank you big brother."

"Anytime." Big Mac replied.

Apple Bloom made her way to the house, her friends coming up on her sides.

"Did you see that!?" Scootaloo said excitedly. "He smashed that camera like it was made of old fruit. I'm surprised your brothers not a world class boxer with a strong head like that."

Apple Bloom sighed, it's not the first time she had seen Big Mac angry. There had been plenty of times where he stubbed his hoof or dropped something on himself during his work but, this was the first time she had actually seen him ready to hurt another pony. Something he could easily do given his size advantage.

"I just hope he's okay. I hope none of those city folk try and ruffle his coat or anything."

"I wouldn't worry about that, my young ponies. The Canterlot news ponies are legendary cowards when it comes to fetching a story" The group stopped and looked around. Apple Bloom could had sworn she just heard Princess Luna's voice.

"Up here silly!"

Apple Bloom and the others raised their heads to see Luna sitting on a dark cloud hovering above the farm.

"Hello, how are you all doing this fine day!" Luna waved at the ponies in greeting and the fillies and colts returned the greeting back to her. Luna hopped off the cloud and glided down to the ground. The second she landed however, her face went sour.

"Why are you all bowing to me?"

Snails was the first to lift his head. "Because you're a Princess?"

Luna giggled. "No, Celestia may like all the formalities with being a Princess, being as old fashioned as she is but, I prefer to speak to my subjects on even footing, as equals."

"Then-" Sweetie Belle just realized that they never actually covered royalty etiquette in class, that she just mimicked what her sister Rarity did when royalty was around. "Then why do adult ponies bow when you or Celestia are around?"

"I see Cheerilee hasn't gotten to that part of your education. It would be a few more years before you would need to know anyways but." Luna's horn began to glow a bright blue, and image of farmer ponies bowing down to Celestia appeared in the air.

"Many generations ago, not too long after Equestria was founded actually. Me and my sister were born to third generation family that consisted of a mix of Unicorns, Earth Ponies and Pegasi. At first we were thought of as abominations by those that didn't understand why we had all the traits of all ponies in us. It wasn't until we were in our early pre-teen years that our true purpose was revealed. During a drought due to the unicorn magic guild messing up the sunrise and moonrise cycles Celestia tried her hand at raising the sun alone."

"But, she always knew how to do that right?" Lemon drop asked.

"Not quite. You see, me and my sister had to study unicorn magic on our own. Both of us were rejected out of the magic guild due to our odd mix of powers. At first the unicorn magic guild laughed my sister out of their hall when she told them she thought she could raise the sun herself." The image swirled and showed a very young, and very pink maned Celestia running away from older unicorns while crying.

"The very next day when the dozen or so of the magic guilds best assembled to raise the sun, Celestia blocked them. She proclaimed that she and she alone would raise the sun. In their arrogance the guild let out a laugh and humored my sister. She stood atop the hills with Pegasus above and Earth ponies below, all watching her." The imaged swirled again, showing earth ponies below Celestia, Pegasi above and chuckling unicorns behind her.

"So she took a deep breath and with a little more concentration she lifted the sun into the sky on her own." The image swirled showing the pegasi, earth ponies both in shock, the unicorns in the background looked as if their jaw hit the ground.

"My sister not only earned her Cutie mark that day, but her mane became a magnificent sparkling rainbow. A beacon that she had made a contract with a celestial body, something no other pony had ever done. The ponies were so impressed that they all bowed out of respect. She has guarded and guided Equestria ever since that day."

"So, ponies bow to you and your sister out of respect?" Sweetie Belle scratched her chin. "I still don't get it, wouldn't a hug be better?"

"Well- hugs certainly are more personal but-" Luna looked over Sweetie Belle and watched Diamond Tiara with interest. "Your friend seems to be having a fit of some kind , like she's holding something...vile back."

"Oh, that's just Diamond Tiara, she gets that way sometimes." Apple Bloom gave Diamond a disapproving stare and the filly calmed down. She knew her snide outburst would not be welcome here.

"Princess-"

"Just call me Luna."

"Luna- did you get you Cutie mark the same way?" Peppermint Twist asked, although from what Apple Bloom knew of her friend she most possibly already knew the answer.

"I raised the moon a couple days after my sister. I figured if she could raise the sun, then I should be able to raise the moon. but- my powers were not exactly as warmly accepted as my sisters."

"Not...accepted?" Apple Bloom asked.

"That's a story for another day I'm afraid. I have a surprise for you all at the Canterlot Palace."

Silver Spoon looked up at the cliff-side in the distance that held up the Equestrian capital of Canterlot. "No disrespect Luna but It's a very long train ride from here to Canterlot, I haven't told my mom where I am going. I don't think I'm allowed as far as Canterlot without telling anypony."

Luna puzzled for a moment. "Ah ha! I will send notifications to every-ponies parents in the group. I will make sure to have you all home by sundown." Luna Looked over her shoulder at Apple Jack who was busy piling hay in a stack. "Is that okay with you Apple Jack?"

"That's fine with me. Jus have er back by her bedtime."

Luna motioned the fillies and colts close by her. "Now, I want you all to close your eyes and take a deep breath."

The fillies and colts did as they were told. All except Diamond Tiara, her curiosity overpowering her.

The air around Luna began to swirl and was soon covered in a thick black-blue smoke and with a flash of light the entire group was gone.

Apple Bloom had never felt so weird before. It was as if her body was being stretched and compressed at the same time. The weightlessness made her want to open her eyes but she kept them shut as per Luna's command. Just as quickly as it had begun her feet felt the clacking sound of something hard underneath.

"Open your eyes now!"

Apple Bloom slowly opened her eyes to find that she was standing on a very fine marble floor, the kind she had only seen in fancy magazines before. She lifted her head up and to her right was a large table, littered with all kinds of summer fruit treats and to the left of her was the largest pool she had ever seen. It even dwarfed the pond or even the reservoir near town.

"Welcome to my pool party!" No sooner had Luna announced the words pool party did Apple Bloom hear the words "Cannon ball!" from both Sweetie Belle and Scootaloo, followed by an enormous splash. The others wasted no time, aside from Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon who were both being extremely picky about water temperature by dipping their hooves in first.

"C'mon Apple Bloom, you don't want to be the last pony in do you?" Luna gave a smile and took a running jump into the pool, her body spread wide and her wings out in a magnificent belly flop. Apple Bloom soon followed with her own Belly flop, although nowhere near as splashy as the much larger Luna's. When Apple Bloom hit the water she felt odd, like her mouth was a little on the scaly side. The shock made her accidentally inhale some water and to her surprise to no ill effects.

Apple Bloom came to the surface quickly, head swimming with questions. When she broke the surface she had Luna's and most of the gang staring at her.

"Is something wrong Apple Bloom?" Luna asked politely.

"I uhh, Inhaled some water but, I didn't have a coughin fit from it. What gives?" Apple Bloom was feeling around the bottom of her neck. It felt as if there were holes in it.

"Oh, I forgot. You never been to a city pool before have you?" Luna asked, trying to hold back a chuckle.

"No, can't say I have. Sweetie and Scoots have been though." Apple Bloom looked at her friends only to have them look back at her with "whoops" faces.

"Let me explain. Around the edge of this pool to the very top of the ceiling is a small barrier. Any pony that passes though this barrier automatically gains the breathe water spell. The scaly feeling you have in your throat will subside soon but first timers often find it a bit alarming at first."

"Why is it even there?" Apple Bloom couldn't grasp why someone would like to breathe like a fish, although she did think it was kind of neat.

"Well, we don't have to hire any life guards that way. In a closed environment like the palace or the city pools we can just use this spell. And any old unicorn could check the spell daily for weaknesses, but I check this one every day personally."

Apple Bloom thought for a moment. The answer seemed obvious but the other question was just waiting to burst in the back of her head. "So, why don't we use this...spell-barrier thing outside, like at the ocean?"

The other ponies went back to playing, leaving Luna and Apple Bloom alone. "Have you ever drawn a line in the sand?"

"Yeah." Apple Bloom responded.

"Well water washes away that line right?"

"Sure does."

"Imagine the spell as a kind of anchor that must sit in the line on the sand. If the line is washed away then so is the spell. Even if we were to make a line of rocks all the way down the cost with the spell it would take thousands of hours to enchant them only to have the spell washed away by the salt water within a year or less."

"So y'all hire lifeguards becuase it's easier?"

"And safer. All manner of wild creatures living in the sea could eat a pony. Having a trained professional there helps mitigate- scare them away I guess is a better word. Enough with the questions for now, we are missing out on valuable splashing time!"

Luna turned around and inhaled deeply."Water fight!" Luna curled into a ball and shot across the pool, sending waves in her wake, splashing everyone.

"Oh no you don't!" Apple Bloom yelled. Apple Bloom quickly got out of the pool and sneaked along the side, until she was right behind Luna. Apple Bloom jumped into the air in a cannon ball, splashing Luna and sending her tumbling forward. Before Luna could react, Apple Bloom surfaced with a mouth full of water and sprayed her right in the face.

"Ahh!" Luna yelled. "Touche little one, touche"She proclaimed while rubbing the water out of her eyes. Luna wasn't down for long, with a little bit of magic she was creating balls of water and hurling them like balloons at the others.

"Ack!" one hit Diamond Tiara square in the face, who was doggie paddling around the sides of the pool. Another bounced off a crudely made shield that Snails just barely managed to get up, ricocheting off him and hitting Snips in the back.

"Engarde all of ye children! Thy Princess of the night challenges thee!" Luna created a few more water balloons but something caught her eye. A stream of bubbles just below the surface was barreling toward her like a torpedo. Before she could get out of the way Featherweight breached the surface, throwing a wave over Luna.

"Thee is quick." Luna quickly recovered only to see both Snips and Snails created a massive ball of water on the other side of the pool.

"Dodge this one Princess!" Snips and Snails hurled the ball at Luna, although very slowly.

Luna couldn't help but laugh. "Thee have impressed me, but thine magic is unstable!" The ball was misshapen and little spurts of water were dripping from underneath it.

"You guys are silly, you know young unicorn magic is unstable. Powerful sometimes, but unstable." Peppermint Twist was busy pointing out imperfections in their spell as the ball slowly approached Luna's position.

"A valiant try but..." Luna dived under the water and popped up behind Snips, hitting him in the back with a water ball. "Not good enough!"

The massive ball of water continued out of the pool and onto the slick floor, slowly moving toward the doorway that led into a nearby foyer. Suddenly Celestia walked though the doorway.

"Luna we need to talk, I just-" Celestia stopped, the magical field holding the water in a ball beginning to fail.

"Uh-oh." Celestia's horn began to glow but it was far too late. The ball exploded in a torrent of water, soaking the monarch. Luna and the others couldn't help themselves, Most of them outright laughing and even those that tried to be respectful; namely Diamond Tiara and Silver Spoon cracked a chuckle.

Celestia stood there for a moment, spitting water out of her mouth like a broken faucet for a moment before shaking herself dry. Celestia giggled to herself. "I really need to start keeping a shield up when I come into this room, Luna always manages to get me wet one way or another."

Luna blushed and swam up to the side of the pool. "What brings you in here today big sis? Are you in the mood for a dip maybe?"

Celestia looked at the pool with a glum face. All the children having a wonderful time reminded her of simpler days, days when she wasn't always bogged down with work. "Alas dear sister, no. I need a moment of your time in private, if you would be so kind."

Luna nodded and pulled herself out of the pool, hovering a tower over to her to dry off. "I will be back momentarily children. If you need any assistance or an emergency occurs do not hesitate to ring the red bell by the food." Luna lowered her horn and fired a beam of blue light by the fruit on the far side of the room. A Large red bell, larger than Luna herself appeared on a pair of stands, with a large rope hanging from the center.

As Luna and Celestia walked away Apple Bloom's had a sudden urge of curiosity. Whatever Celestia needed to talk to Luna about must have been grave, the look on her face before she was hit by the water ball was a face she had seen before on her older sister. The very same kind of face her sister wore ...that day.

Apple Bloom pulled herself out of the water and quickly shook herself dry. Taking a quick look around to see if any of her schoolmates noticed her, she slipped into the nearby foyer and then down the hall where she heard Celestia talking. It was quite hard to stay silent as she approached them but she found if she slid along the marble floor instead of walked she didn't make anywhere near as much noise. As Celestia's voice got louder Apple Bloom ducked behind a vase and put her ear out.

"You know we have to get closer to hear them right?"

Apple Bloom jumped up and hit the vase only to have Scootaloo catch it and put it back up carefully. "Jeez are you trying to get us caught?" She said as she adjusted the vase.

"How did you-"

"Like we wouldn't notice you sneak off. Sorry AB but bright red hair and a giant pink bow are kind of hard to miss." Scootaloo finished while pointed out Apple Blooms decorative bow she kept in her mane.

"Then where is Sweetie Belle?" Apple Bloom asked.

"She's covering for us by faking to play marco polo with us. That pool is big enough to hide a whale so it will be awhile before anyone else notices we are gone. Follow me." Scootaloo moved along the ground nearly soundlessly, her hooves holding her weight but being lifted off the ground very little; in a crawling like shuffle.

"Where did you ever learn how to do that Scoots?" Apple Bloom whispered while trying to copy Scootaloo's movements.

"A game called Splinter Gear Solid or something. Try and keep it down, we are almost to the target..." Scootaloo pressed up against a statue of a royal guard and listened in. Apple Bloom at the base trying to get a ear in as well.

"I'm sorry about interrupting your party. I know how very rare it is for you to have guests, let alone be awake at this hour."

"Tis nothing. Whatever it is you needed my attention for must be most dire. The look on your face was just dreadful dear sister." Luna replied.

"The terms of war from Walarah came in. Let's just say what she is planning is entirely absurd." Apple Bloom could hear Celestia unfurl a piece of paper of some kind.

"Read for yourself Luna, personally I think she is entirely mad to request such a thing."

Apple Bloom and Scootaloo peeked over the leg of the statue to watch Luna read a paper, from their vantage point they couldn't quite make out the writing. Lucky for them Luna had a bad habit of mouthing her words as she read them or outright saying them aloud.

"I believe it is in our best interests to settle this conflict as quickly as possible. I have heard your country has a bunker left over from some lost ape like civilization that contains what your scientist dubbed "The Steel Titans". We too have found a similar bunker with various very dangerous weapon designs. My idea is thus: We both construct less lethal variants of these machines and pit them against one another in fifteen on fifteen battles. We should hold at least eight of these battles to thin the heard on each side, double elimination style so only the best of the best are left. We then have one battle with the remaining best of each team, the winner of that battle gets the northern territory. I hope you agree to these terms of battle, hope to hear from you soon. Queen Walarah"

Luna's face went pale. "She has got to be out of her mind. Those weapons are strictly forbidden! I-I trust our own country folk to never use such things but if some evil being like chrysalis got a hold of those designs...

*Sheeck!!*

Apple Blooms still wet hoof slid our from under her, making a terrifying hoof -on- chalkboard like sound that both Princesses surly heard.

"You klutz, they are alarmed, code yellow, cheese it!" Scootaloo took off in a fast crawl, Apple Bloom trying to keep up as best she could.

"Is anypony there?" Celestia moved up to the hallway and looked left and then right, Luna close behind her. "I could of sworn I heard somepony out here."

"I did too." Luna walked ahead of Celestia and looked around when something caught her eye. On the bottom edge of the statue of a royal guard was a small patch of red hair and would looked like a ripped fragment of ribbon on the sharp statue edge.

"I think I know who it was that made that noise." Luna picked up the fragment of ribbon and showed it to Celestia.

"She isn't the only one." Celestia pointed out a single orange feather a bit of ways down the hall and hovered it too herself.

Luna sighed. "Things just got a lot more complicated didn't they dear sister?"

"A lot more Luna, a lot more."